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Purple Row Awards: Top Pitcher - Ubaldo Jimenez

In case you spent the summer in Botswana, 2010 was the Year of the Pitcher in MLB.  The phenomenon not only spilled over into Coors Field, but it flourished, as the Rockies set franchise records in staff ERA (4.14) and ERA+ (112).

At the forefront was Ubaldo Jimenez, this year's unanimous winner of the Purple Row Pitcher of the Year.  Truthfully, it would also be the unanimous choice for best season in franchise history.  After throwing a no-hitter and starting the season 15-1, Ubaldo became a national sensation, with many observers wondering if he could reach 30 wins.  As we know, Jimenez went 4-7 over his last 15 starts, leaving him shy of 20 wins.

2010 - Ubaldo Jimenez 19-8 33 33 4 2 0 0 221.2 164 73 71 10 92 214 2.88 1.15

While the national fervor for our Dominican ace cooled significantly, his performance actually did not decline as much as it seemed.  In August, Jimenez posted a 2.54 FIP and followed it with a solid 3.06 FIP in September/October.  

The perception is that Jimenez regressed back to simply very good in the second half, but his overall season still stacks up among the best in MLB.   In fact, he led ALL MLB pitchers in Baseball Reference WAR (yes, over Roy Halladay).  He finished in a virtual tie with Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander for third behind Halladay and Cliff Lee in Fangraphs WAR.  He is one of four MLB starters (along with Halladay, Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright) whose ERA was 3.00 or lower on every day of the season.

On Saturday, October 2, Jimenez pitched arguably his best game of the year in his final start yet failed to secure his 20th win.  In the game wrap, I wrote this:

The young Rockies' ace set franchise records for K's (with a fifth inning strikeout of Colby Rasmus), ERA, WAR, wins, H/9, HR/9, and WHIP.  He was the first Rockies' starter not only to pitch before the fifth inning in an All-Star Game, but he was the first one to start the game.  It has been a season to remember for Ubaldo, and as much as a twentieth win would have meant, that doesn't change the magnificence in which Ubaldo performed this season.  

It may be the Year of the Pitcher, but Ubaldo Jimenez started it.  As far as I'm concerned, he finished it off too.

Second Place - Jhoulys Chacin

Jhoulys Chacin wasn't even in the the top six on the rotation depth chart on Opening Day, yet he leveraged 21 starts into a comfortable 2nd place finish after getting named on all seven ballots.  The most impressive statistic about Chacin's rookie season is this:  

If not for Ubaldo Jimenez' historic season in 2010, the Rockies franchise record for ERA and ERA+ would have been set in this year by Jhoulys Chacin (assuming 20+ starts).

At just 22 years old, Chacin is already posting fantastic numbers and provided more value than anyone could have hoped for as the rest of the rotation battled injuries.  He did so by exhibiting higher velocity and strikeout numbers than he ever experienced in the minor leagues, a phenomenon which is incredibly rare.  In fact, his strikeout rate in 2010 was bested only by Jorge de la Rosa's 2009 campaign in Rockies history.  Suffice it to say, Colorado has found themselves a(nother) Venezuelan gem.


Third Place - Jason Hammel

Hammel started off slow and finished poorly, but in the middle, he pitched like a solid mid-rotation starter, which is more than he would ever be asked to do.  It wasn't always pretty, but he actually ranked second on the team in WAR at 3.7.   While he didn't quite repeat his franchise record 3.17 K/BB ratio of 2009, his 3.00 K/BB ratio in 2010 still places him as the Rockies career leader in that department.  If he returns as the Rockies' fourth starter in 2011, the rotation will be in good shape.


The full voting results:

Russ Jeff Fish A-Mart Bryan Silverblood WM
1 Jimenez Jimenez Jimenez Jimenez Jimenez Jimenez Jimenez
2 Chacin Hammel Belisle Chacin Chacin Chacin Chacin
3 Belisle Chacin Chacin Hammel Belisle Hammel Hammel

The points tally:

Player Points
Jimenez 21
Chacin 12
Hammel 5
Belisle 4